Driving GUNHEAD with Chris Palmer

Episode 05 of Literary Punk featuring William Gibson is up on Hookturn! Climb on board the decommissioned GUNHEAD, with me and outstanding SF scholar Chris Palmer at the wheel, as we take a drive round Gibson’s 1993 illumination of the cyberpunk future, VIRTUAL LIGHT.

Virtual Light BridgeCommenting in his 2005 collection of critical writings On SF, the late Thomas M. Disch argued: Gibson “is still, on the evidence of Virtual Light, the fastest thinker” of a new generation of SF writers (2005, p146).

For this episode I’m joined by Melbourne scholar, Christopher Palmer, an author widely published on contemporary SF (Philip K Dick, Iain M Banks, China Mieville), to discuss why Gibson’s 1993 book is a luminous novel, both inside and beyond the category of cyberpunk literature.

Dystopia’s not supposed to feel this good! We explore the texture of Gibson’s language and narrative, and the desire of the heterotopian spaces he opens up within the usual tropes of dystopian futures. We talk about the “wonder” of being in Gibson’s “NoCal / SoCal”, where Mies’ God is indeed in the details …of a mixed media off-grid Oakland Bay Bridge, or, as Palmer notes, in the detail of a little punk word like “just”, which accompanies dual protagonists, Rydell and Chevette’s, defiantly improvised relationship with their city.

Strap yourself in, get ready to experience Gibson’s language couriers, who deliver directly onto the reader’s nerve endings a constantly improvised crisis: the moment of living the future-Now. 

[VIRTUAL LIGHT, William Gibson, Penguin, 1994]

Nora Sumberg on Virginia Woolf’s language for “undescribable” things such as the punk act of painting


 “There’s this other undescribable thing that’s going on as well, which is just the act – the act of painting, which is where, you know, you’re not in control of what’s happening and don’t want to be. And that’s, I think, the sort of writer she is, and why I see her as an allied spirit as a punk.”

Nora Sumberg on Virginia Woolf Literary Punk episode #4 ‘To the Lighthouse’


To the Lighthouse

[And a big shout out to James Lloyd (aka James Wave, bassist with X-Ray-Z, 1977-8) for the podcast’s title track. Up louder, punker, more offensive this episode for my guest in the podcast studio: artist, teacher, PhD candidate in Fine Art at the VCA, and Melbourne punk queen, Nora Sumberg, as she gives us ‘the low down and the high down’ on the birth of the Australian punk scene, her art school days with Nick Cave and The Boys Next Door in Melbourne c.1976]




Macbeth and the difference between Paris and Rome

The blood thing.

Macbeth’s language is the difference between Paris and Rome. Paris is elegant, it accommodates good taste. I can speak the language. Whereas my knowledge of Italian comes from the 2 great canons of opera and pizza. Music and appetite. Desire.

Paris suits me but Rome I want to go back to.

I hate it when I’m there: it’s bruta. It’s about hard bodies pushing up against me in steaming buses. Dripping lacerated Christs. A nun who makes hourly the story of Peter’s upside-down crucifixion. Body. Visceral. Headspin.

But it’s the city I remember.

Macbeth is my Rome. It’s the body play; the eating, sexing, the bloody, desiring, the operatic playscript.

Callas Macbeth3

The self is a Literary me: why we need Beauty.

Maxim Gorky was his pen-name. Alexei Maximovich Peshkov was Russian. The son of peasants, he became a novelist and playwright, a revolutionary and a member of the Marxist Internationalist Group. My Childhood (1913), the first installment in his autobiographical trilogy, reads like the most horrific family violence statement one could imagine. An unbelievably savage beating at the hands of his murderous grandfather puts the 5 year old protagonist, Alexei, into a near-death fever. For pages he lies unconscious, secretly nursed back to life by his grandmother. It would appear that she saved his life, by telling him stories.

This is what Gorky – a literary self, a child of story – had to say about the big three of the Self, Literature and Beauty:

“The purpose of literature is to help people to understand themselves, to inspire them with a yearning for truth, and to give them greater confidence in themselves; the purpose of literature is to combat human baseness, to reach the good in people and to waken in their souls anger and courage so that they may become noble and strong and be fired with the scared principle of beauty.”

Gorky cropped







Hamlet. Who are you man?! #conspiracy theory unveiled

Add this math and then tell me whose stories we’re telling!!

1. In episode 1 of the podcast Justin Clemens talks about a personal link between reading trash Sci-Fantasy and Hamlet. He then details how Michael Moorcock used royalties from The Knight of the Swords to fund New Wave SF magazine New Worlds, which went on to publish Pynchon, …and Burroughs.

2. Burroughs said literature was an alien virus from outer space...

3. P K Dick scholar, AND self-described former Shakespeare man, Christopher Palmer, said that Hamlet was a play morphing into the novel form …via its excessive use of surveillance! #conspiracy

4. Kundera says the novel enters literature as Quixote rides out into the un-God desert of the universe and fiction.

5. Creator of 2001, Arthur C. Clarke, says narrative and the Mandelbrot set are linked. #chaos

6. Ursula K. Le Guin, SF writer and critic, disseminates narrative theories.

7. P K Dick invented the Voight-Kampff test.

8. Timelords can’t love!

9. Hamlet has no empathy! Clemens: “He’s basically a psycho killer.”!!

= 10??

For the full and revealing discussion of WHO OR WHAT SENT US THE NOVEL FORM?! tune in to episode 1 of the podcast:







Over being overregulated? Get your Nothing on!

“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.” Justin Clemens gets his Cordelia on to invoke the radical movement of nothingness, or desire, which is at the heart of literature’s power. In response to the proposed trigger warnings for literary texts in American universities he argues:

“They’re scared of the power of writing, not of the content…The thing about desire is so much in the world wants to get rid of it. And one of the nothingnesses (whether of beauty, or of a literary power or artistic power) is to once again open up a little bit where something that we can’t control but that’s nevertheless very intimate with us may take us along tragic or glorious roots. That actually there’s that play which can’t be locked down, controlled, shut off or otherwise canalised.”

Listen to the entire conversation in episode 1 of the podcast:





Rik Mayall playing Gogol, National Theatre, 1985. Photographed by John Haynes.

R.I.P. Ryk Mayall.

Kevin Spacey talks about theatre being Now. He’s right. Theatre uses the eternal present, radical space, to make up something, to play: here, and then here, and then here. Every night.

Ryk Mayall was master of that anarchic play space. A massive shout-out to John Haynes for capturing him in his moment of Now. I’ve had this book for ever. It never gets old: Taking the Stage: Twenty-One Years of the London Theatre, Photographs by John Haynes, Introduction by Lindsay Anderson, London: Thames & Hudson, 1986.

gogol's punk